Grandma is No, 1,000,000 in skills programme

SINGAPORE - A 53-year-old grandmother has become the millionth worker to be trained in a government- subsidised national skills upgrading programme.

Madam Ng Geok Kuan, who assembles computer hard disks, attended a two-day Singapore Workforce Skills Qualification course where she learnt to be more systematic.

On Thursday, the HGST Singapore employee was presented with a giant certificate at her Kaki Bukit factory.

Madam Ng, who has Primary 3 education, said language was the biggest obstacle as classes were in English. But she has overcome her fear and has since attended another course through the programme, which was set up in 2005 by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA).

The statutory board told The Straits Times that a quarter of the one million trainees who completed it were professionals, executives or managers.

Seven in 10 had at least GCE O level qualifications and about one in four were foreigners.

The WDA said the most popular courses included those teaching IT skills and personal development, which make workers more employable.

It added that 2010 was the busiest year, with 288,650 trainees, due to a government programme that encouraged firms to send workers to learn new skills.

When asked how workers benefited from training, the WDA pointed to a survey which showed that those who attended the programme in 2008 were earning 1.3 per cent more than their untrained peers a year later. Two years on, the gap had widened to 4.3 per cent.

Madam Ng said she is not expecting a raise any time soon. "It depends on the boss," said the soft-spoken woman, whose basic salary is about $1,000 a month.

Mr Koh Whatt Hin, general manager of the firm, said: "Her salary will be reviewed next February, but we have short-term incentives which she can receive if she performs well."

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